I remember being very excited about the fact that I was about to get the vote. Admittedly I hadn’t had to chain myself to some railings, get hit by a racehorse or even burn my bra in an attempt to get it, but nonetheless I somehow felt that my eighteen years of life had given me the necessary experience to shape the future of my country.
That my first general election was a showdown between John Major and Neil Kinnock was possibly a disappointment. It was like waiting forty years to lose your virginity, only to be told that the only two living females left in the world were Margaret Thatcher and the octogenarian from across the road who would never give you your football back if you happened to kick it into her garden.*
Still, I proudly marched into the polling booth that day and placed my cross against a candidate’s name with all the solemnity of a Death Row jailer pressing a button to release poisonous gases into the chamber. A little harsh to compare some of the 1992 MPs to poisonous gases perhaps, but given that their number included Michael Portillo, John Redwood and Michael Howard, not entirely unfair.
Since then I’ve voted whenever and wherever I’ve been required to, before cruelly being robbed of my electoral franchise by emigration to the US.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to bleat on yet again about taxation without representation, tempting though it is. Because the fact is, there seems to be so many elections over here that half the time I’d have no idea what I’m voting for in the first place.
For a start, you’ve got the primaries, which appear to be like the early audition rounds of The X-Factor or American Idol – mildly irrelevant to the main event, and of little interest but for the freakshow candidates. Come on, I understand that we need to exercise our democratic right, but do we really have to have semi-finals?
And then there’s some of the things that Americans seem to be asked to vote for. Right now in New York, there’s an election for the roles of comptroller and public advocate. I mean, do we really have to choose who is going to look after the finances – isn’t that why you select a governor in the first place, to make decisions about the best person for the job? And is American politics so far up its own posterior that we need somebody whose role it is to make sure that they listen to the public? Isn’t fear of being voted out at the next election enough for these people?
Next thing you know, there will be a run-off to choose who should make coffee at the Senate on a Tuesday, mark my words. With maybe a subsequent vote to determine whether they brew decaf or regular.
* Bless you, Mrs Lester. May your afterlife consist of watching on in horror as a succession of boys kick balls into your pristine garden for all eternity.